Over the past several years, the “Roland Special” concept has gone from unknown, to being mocked, copied, modified, and has now taken its rightful place as internet meme. On the P&S forum, I commented that I felt like that the dot and comp together made a pistol shoot greater than the sum of the parts. This idea got me thinking about a possible project attempting to quantify the advantages of the dot and comp individually as well as together.
I have selected a variety of qualifications, drills, and shooting standards to shoot each set-up with to provide an accurate comparison. Obviously I am not the greatest pistol shot in the world, but I will be shooting each gun with the same support equipment, and overall attempting to eliminate as many variables as possible. I am sure that, for example, Scott Jedlinski could beat every single one of my best times with a red dot Glock 17, most likely on his first try. The important thing here isn’t that the best possible shooter is doing this, but that the same shooter is testing each variation in equipment. Ammunition is 124 grain Blazer, and holster was from the now-defunct Armiger Solutions which was the only concealment holster I currently own that supports both the dot and the comp. Mag carrier was the excellent Dark Star Gear Koala. I was shooting and reloading from appendix concealed under a button-down shirt.
H1: The dot will show no noticeable speed concessions up close, but the advantage will be more apparent as the target size is decreased or the target distance is increased.
H2: The comp will also offer no noticable gains over a standard barrel until the target size or distance has increased in difficulty.
H3: The dot and comp together will offer a greater performance gain than either individual item
I took each set-up out on a seperate range day to eliminate another variable of having ‘warmed up’ with one gun before shooting another one. Although there obviously had to be some guns shot before others (I used a random number generator to determine order which ended up being red dot only, irons only, red dot and comp, then comp only) these were all drills I have shot before, and having some time between the range visits helped with one test influencing another one. While I want to say the shooting portion of the test was super exciting, nothing of note occured. I was able to move my way through each drill, recording data from the targets and the shot time as I went. Following is an overview of the drills I shot.
Draw 1 shot at 7 yards (X7)
Draw 1 shot at 25 yards (X7)
Draw 2 shots at 7 yards (X7)
Draw 2 shots at 25 yards (X7)
Bill drill at 5, 15, and 25 yards (X7 each)
Two-Reload-Two at 10 yards
The F.A.S.T drill at 7 yards (using a slightly smaller scaled target printed on 8.5X11 paper)
The Federal Air Marshal pistol qual (using the USPSA targets)
The 700 Point Aggregate (ie. “The Humbler”)
5X5 (also using USPSA targets)
For all data with multiple iterations, the highest and lowest times were eliminated and the average of the middle five were taken as the score. Overall I found that the data was very consistent, to the point that in the future I don’t think I will run as many strings of the same drill to save time and ammo.
Splits, Draws, and Reloads
The image above takes the data from the standard iron sight only 226, and compares the performance with every other gun in percentages either better or worse. Bars going below the X axis are faster, while those above are slower.
Looking at HP1 and HP2, splits up close were almost identical, with a blip at 10 yards going in favor of the stock gun, then all upgraded guns showing increasing improvement as the distance increased. I was glad to quantify what I thought felt like faster times with both the red dot and the comp. It is interesting that the performance of the dot and comp together did not show a massive difference from each item on its own.
I inserted reload info, of which the data shows slower times with the ‘upgraded’ guns. As I am well aware, of any pistol skill out there, a standing reload is one I am most inconsistent with and struggle with the most.
When looking at draw times, as expected they are very similar until you start increasing the distance, then the upgraded guns pull forward.
This summary comes from data broken down from drills, so let’s look at complete drills and quals now to compare results.
Data is arranged as before, with each variation compared to the stock gun in percentage, higher being above the X axis and lower being below.
Looking at the bill drill results specifically, which involves a draw then 6 rounds, the dot and comp help at an increasing rate and the distance is increased. Not only was I able to call shots more confidently (as well as shooting more accurately), but the times show an increased performance that matches my qualitative ‘feel’ of how I was shooting.
When looking at the qualification courses (F.A.M., C.T.T.S., and the 5X5), you notice that they are primarily shot on close targets (7-10 yards) so the variations are small. With the F.A.S.T. drill presenting much tighter shots than the full A zones of the other quals, the upgraded guns helped with both precise shots as well as keeping the four body shots in the 8” circle while pushing the speed. I particularly like the F.A.S.T. drill because it incorporates so many skills, while challenging the shooter to push the speed while still holding you accountable with tight accuracy requirements. Of anything I shot in this test, I feel that the F.A.S.T. drill is the most well-rounded way to test the stand and deliver ability of both a shooter and their equipment. With that drill, the dot and comp showed immediate performance gains in accuracy and speed. Considering HP3, while there were drills where the comp and dot together outperformed everything, that was certainly not the case across the board. For example, the comp only had the best score for 25 yard splits, and the red dot only was best at 12 yard splits. Generally speaking, the comp and dot combo performed best, especially at longer distances, or on the more comprehensive qualification courses.
Finally looking at the humbler data, as expected the two red dot guns scored the best, with about 50 points higher each compared to the stock irons-only gun or the comp only. Especially on the slow fire strings, having the red dot really helped me, and when I did shank a shot (which happened!) I was able to call those shots much more confidently, and I knew about where I would find them when I went down to score.
I will note that there is a lot of raw data that I have elected to not use here. The reasons are it shows the same results as the compiled data, and it is more difficult to present in text here. If anyone, for some reason, would like access to it, feel free to contact me and I will send you access to the google sheets page.
Like almost any USPSA shooter could have told you many years ago, adding a red dot sight and compensator to a pistol will generally increase the performance of a gun. I have long expected that I was doing better, especially at distance, with a red dot-equipped pistol, and it was valuable for me to test that to know for sure. Yes it it true that the gains are usually subtle, but for someone who is dedicated to improvement and is looking for every advantage, both a red dot and a comp are valid pieces of equipment to consider. For example, the old Federal Air Marshal Qual was shot with each variation, and only the Comp/Dot combo gave me a passing score. It was very close, and the other three variations were passing on all strings but one. I think that is a good illustration that the gains can be subtle, but also might just push you over the edge between a pass and a fail like it did for me.
Red Dot advantages: Like mentioned before with the Humbler, for me a red dot makes it easier to call shots. I have never shot another person, but based on comments on the modcasts, as well as talking to others who have ‘been there done that’ it is difficult at times to determine exactly where someone or something is being hit with bullets. Being able to confidently know where your shots went must be a valuable skill for gunfighting (once again I emphasize that is not my lane). When it comes to USPSA and many other shooting sports, calling your shots is invaluable. There simply is not enough time to look over your gun and check for holes in the target. By the time you visually identify a miss or especially a C or D zone hit, the time is gone for that make up shot to be of any use, and will most likely end up being a detriment to your score. Being able to immediately identify a bad shot and take a follow-up without delay will save you from misses without killing your time. I am not saying it is impossible to call shots with iron sights, I am saying for me it is easier with a red dot.
Comp Advantages: When engaging a single target with multiple rounds, the comp will keep the gun flatter, and will translate to either faster shots, or better accuracy as the muzzle more readily returns to your last POA with the aid of the comp. I found that, like the red dot, the comp really started to shine past 10 yards, or on tighter targets. Especially in conjunction with the red dot, the comp allowed me to track the red dot better under recoil, and as long as I had a good grip, I felt confident the dot would return to a tighter aiming point like the head box on the F.A.S.T. drill or the A zone at 25 yards.
Although not a perfect fit, the Samson Manufacturing S&W Shield comp fits the profile of the Sig 226 slide and worked surprisingly well.
Luckily with their ever-increasing prevalence, it is easier to find someone local who will let you ‘test drive’ pistols before you invest in gear for yourself. As always if you are in the Northern Utah area, hit me up and I’m sure we can figure out a range day.
It is common to read that pistol comps will only work well on higher pressure ‘duty’ rounds, and more so the +p variants. It is true they work well with those. They also work well with standard ammunition, as well as light loads that I made specifically to test that idea. If your pistol will work with the comp and standard ammunition, do not believe the internet lore that somehow the comp will magically not function; it still does work to reduce muzzle rise.